21 Fun Facts Anyone Who's Been to Bali Will Know

BALI, INDONESIA- The island of Bali is a bustling haven of relaxation, and there are many quirks and oddities unique to the Island of the Gods. Here are some tips about Bali that won’t make it to the travel pamphlets, but will help you navigate this unique culture as a little bit less of an outsider. While a welcoming place, it’s important to know that…

 

Bali is much bigger than you might think. The roads are in poor condition, and if you want to make a circuit of the island, there’s no way you can pull it off in less than a week or so. The narrow, one-lane roads make driving a nightmare, and it will take you two hours or so to get from Ubud to Uluwatu. It’s bigger than you think. That being said…

 

Bali is not so big that the Balinese are ever “far from home”. According to Balinese traffic laws, they aren’t required to wear helmets if they are “close to home”. Since the Balinese rarely wear helmets, the island can’t be that big. Or perhaps it’s that while navigating the treacherous roads without a helmet might seem like a risky decision to Westerners, to the Balinese it isn’t, since…

 

They engage in risky behavior without traditional Western safety nets. There is not the stringent attention to personal safety that we are used to in the Western world, nor do you find a cultural emphasis on minimization of risk. For example…

 

When I was on the beach in Seminyak, there was a man who had to be dragged out of the water by lifeguards. He was lying on his side, coughing up water and the lifeguards paid so little attention to him that a Western EMT came over to assist. The EMT knelt down and attended to the man, while the lifeguards just stood around and joked with each other. Hardly the first response you would find from any Western lifeguard; it showed me that you need to be on your toes when you’re in Bali, and watch out for yourself. The Balinese have their own way of doing things, most importantly…

 

 Celebrations abound in Bali

Celebrations abound in Bali

 

Running on Bali time. Everything starts when it starts, and you shouldn’t expect time as we know it to be something that is given serious consideration by the Balinese. I first learned this when sitting on the street waiting for a ceremonial parade to start. After an hour, I asked the Balinese man sitting next to me how much longer we had to wait. With a little grin, he cocked his head and said, “It will start soon. Bali time, my friend”. Don’t let Bali time bother you—it’s part of the island charm. Especially since…

 

There are ceremonies everywhere, every day. From the small morning offerings of incense and food to the Gods to the larger ceremonies that shut down towns for days at a time, you must learn that things will be closed for ceremonies all the time. Take it in stride. Bali time is something you need to get used to. The one exception is when you are at…

 

The Airport in Denpasar. It’s a surprisingly modern building with an attentive staff that’s run like a modern institution. Of course there will always be delays at airports, but that’s to be expected. But in Denpasar there are no third-world delays like you might expect, since after all Bali is a place where…

 

Buildings can’t be built higher than coconut trees. That’s right—coconut trees. No one knows exactly how high this is; it’s an approximate science, but it’s one that’s designed to keep development to a minimum and maintain the traditional roots of the island. Overdevelopment is mostly an issue only in the tourist areas on the south of the island such as Kuta, though at least in Kuta the infrastructure is somewhat reliable. That isn’t always the case in smaller towns up north, especially in Ubud, where you should by no means…

 

 Watch your step!

Watch your step!

 

Text and walk. The sidewalks here are terrible, and in some cases nonexistent. You have to pay attention to where you’re going at all times, lest you fall into a grimy, sluice-filled pit. However, not having anything to distract your attention can mean that it’s difficult to ignore the men standing on every corner, hawking…

 

Transport? Transport? One of the most popular ways to get around Bali is to hire one of the “taxis” that hang around on the street. They are usually quite reliable and offer a reasonable rate for a ride in a private car or more often, a motorbike—so be sure to confirm which you’re getting before you commit a driver to service. However, if you say no, you don’t want transport, you’re likely to be solicited something—anything—else, like the one time a driver asked me, “No transport?...You want ice pop?” because…

 

 Available for purchase, right off the street

Available for purchase, right off the street

 

The Balinese sell anything and everything on the streets, including blowguns and knives. The Balinese are incredibly talented artists and are eager to show you their work. You can’t buy ever dirty, used Svedka bottles ¾ filled with yellow liquid you see on the sides of the road are gas stations. My favorite ware I saw hawked were “Balibong” flip-flops, a play on the popular (and expensive) Aussie brand Billabong. A lot of the stuff they’re selling is crap, but that being said…

 

Patronize the arts. Each village on the island of Bali is known for a particular craft—woodworking, painting, and ceramics, to name a few. The Balinese are incredibly talented artists and are eager to show you their work. You can’t buy everything; though many see you as a walking ATM and expect you to—but you should support the local economy when you see something you like. You can afford it, and they can’t afford for you not to. It’s important to keep in mind that you should…

The lifestyle in Bali is only cheap when you live the same lifestyle you might elsewhere. If you budget all of your money at home and are careful with what you spend, and you do the same in Bali, then Bali will be cheaper. But if you budget at home and come to Bali living like a king, getting hotel rooms and patronizing every artist, things can end up being as expensive as they are at home. This is mostly a problem when eating…there are endless amounts of restaurants to try, and it’s tempting to sample them all. Just keep in mind that you can end up spending a lot on food, since…

 

Bargain, bargain, bargain. Never pay the price initially quoted; you are expected to bargain. That being said, don’t be a dick—you can likely afford what they want you to pay in the end, and you don’t want to rip them off with a bottom dollar price. Keep in mind to never propose a price without being willing to pay for the item at that price—it is considered rude for them to concede on a bid and for you to walk away. When bargaining things may be cheap, but don’t go overboard because…

 

In America, when you order Banana Pancakes, it’s assumed you will get three. In Bali, when you order Banana Pancakes, expect to get only one. While things are certainly cheaper, keep in mind that portion sizes are smaller—eating at a Warung will not necessarily fill you up for as long as a Western meal might. What’s a Warung, you might ask? It’s Indonesian for restaurant; as you will learn...

 

A little Bhasa goes a long way. Learning just a few phrases of Bhasa Indonesia (literally meaning language Indonesia) will go a long way towards understanding important signage and getting along with everyone you meet. Like any tourist destination, there are people that speak English, but it’s always appreciated when an attempt is made to learn the language, especially in a place like Bali where the community and in particular the family are tight knit. So tight knit that…

 

21_4.png

 

Balinese families all live together in the same compound. Extended families. Children live with their parents until they are old enough to marry, at which point the wife moves in with the husband’s family, and the husband stays right where he is. This can oftentimes get confusing, since…

 

Balinese, who often go by only one name, are named by the order of their birth. The first-born is called Wayan or Gede, the second born is called Made, the third-born is called Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth-born is called Ketut. It gets confusing meeting Balinese when they all have the same name, and I can only imagine what it’s like in one of these compounds, especially since the children are named irrespective of sex. Boys are named Wayan, and so are...

 

Girls, who are required to wear pigtails when attending school. It’s a curious sight to see all of the children get out for the afternoon and watch the little girls with matching braids falling across their shoulders. Yet Bali is a place deeply rooted in custom, some innocuous and cute such as the requirement that school-children all wear pigtails, and some which foreigners need to be wary of, such as…

 

The propensity of the police to stop you on your motorbike, and demand to see your International Driver’s License. Well, that’s not really the custom—the custom is for them to demand a fifty thousand rupiah bribe if you can’t produce an IDL on the spot. It’s worth paying the $15 to get one before visiting Bali so you don’t risk having to pay one of these “fines”. It also means that you won’t be pegged as a…

 

Pariwisata (remember, a little Bhasa goes a long way). Pariwisata means “tourist” and can be found on the front grill of the countless coach buses that improbably navigate the tiny, crowded streets of Bali. You should be sure not to end up with “pariwisata” imprinted on your bum when crossing the street, since with these little tidbits you no longer have to act like one!